Last year at this time I dug up our tiny patch of lawn and child’s play structure in favor of my first vegetable garden, a zucchini-and-arugula extravaganza that was rewarding enough try and keep going into our rainy season. With visions of winter greens dancing in my brain, I planted all sorts of starters: dandelion, mustard, bok choy, swiss chard, romaine, beet – but then promptly ignored it all. The mustard greens tasted a little too – dare I say mustardy? – spicy and sharp, the snails got to the bok choy before I did, and I got too distracted with bread baking and cheese making and such to devote any of my attention to the edible playground. And so this past week, while preparing the garden for summer’s planting, I found that. left to their own devices in a mild Central California winter, greens go completely wild.

We did get lots of mileage from the arugula all season, picking tiny leaves for pizzas and paninis (Kid Two’s favorite panini: sourdough bread, prosciutto, scrambled egg, parmesan cheese, arugula, and chopped homemade sweet spiced zucchini pickles we made last August). We left the arugula to make its tiny white papery flowers, not clearing it until the stems were over 6 feet long, stripped of leaves, heaped over in clumps. It lives again, though, springing up thickly between the stones of the garden path:

Unbelievably, the stems of the mustard greens, just like swiss chard and Italian parsley, grow as thick as a child’s wrist:

They all grow to well to over 5 feet tall; here are the mustard plants:

One item you won’t find at the florist but lovely all the same: tiny beet flowers:

And too late for eating: my purple globe artichoke, forgotten in a half oak wine barrel, on the verge of flowering:


Wild nature exists, even in a planned vegetable bed.